AGENCIES NEEDING A BOOST? CREATE ANOTHER ONE!

Wanting to streamline Scotland’s enterprise agencies? Simple. Create more of them.

Last week the Scottish government unveiled the first part of their review into the country’s enterprise and skills agencies.

Much simplification is certainly needed given the multiplicity of skills agencies and enterprise promoting bodies. The paper reveals plans for a new economic development body for the south of Scotland.

And Cabinet Secretary Keith Brown has announced a new statutory board to co-ordinate the activities of Highlands and Island Enterprise, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Development International, Skills Development Scotland and the Scottish Funding Council.

Phew – another body! When in doubt about the performance of enterprise bodies, reach for that off-the-shelf solution: create another one!

Says Andy Willox, FSB’s Scottish policy convenor, “Scotland needs nimbler, better co-ordinated help for businesses.

“Many of the worthy changes focus on sorting out the governance of our economic agencies. A top measure of their success should be the experience of the ordinary Scottish business. “

While giving a cautious welcome to the new agency for the south of Scotland, he adds, “The next, more substantial, stage of this review must ensure that every tool at the disposal of government in Scotland is being used to help smaller firms succeed.”

The response of Liz Cameron, chief executive of the Scottish Chambers of Commerce is rather more nuanced, but concludes in similar vein: “Government must develop an environment which is just as ready to adapt.

“It is not always about financial support, but also about investing in infrastructure, reducing bureaucracy, creating supportive business processes and efficient business planning. The joining up of the myriad of agencies and support organisations is also a welcome step.

“This review is important for the Scottish economy and its final recommendations require cross party support as we move into the next phase of change and delivery.”

Scotland does not lack enterprise bodies, skills agencies and business help bodies. What it needs is a rigorous audit of how successfully they are operating, whether best practice is being copied and what the feedback from the business community is recommending.

But another body? To whom do we turn to get something done? Why, the top tier, of course. The new one – complete with offices, secretariat – “customer engagement feedback forms” – and waiting list…

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